4 Rules for Maintaining a Classic Car

Servicing and maintaining a classic car isn’t quite as simple a task as it is for a new car, so where do you turn? What should you be looking out for? Here’s a guide to help you through the minefield.

Golden Rules for Maintaining a Classic Car

Much like a classic Swiss timepiece, a classic car is never really yours. You are just looking after it for the next generation’s custodian. Irrespective of the badge, the appeal of a well-maintained classic is always going to win a future buyer over, and so, with the market still in full flight, it is imperative that you follow a few golden rules.

Maintaining a Classic Car - Find a specialist
Image Source: Author’s Own

Rule #1: Find a Specialist

Let us first deal with the oily bits that keeps the car humming. With the advent of the classic car movement back in the 1980’s, many specialists were established with the pure aim of keeping these exquisite machines on the road for years to come. Some of these businesses were established by workers who had looked after them when they were new, or perhaps even worked for the manufacturer itself, and therefore know them (literally) inside out. My first rule is to seek the good ones out. Find out through talking to other owners, or enthusiast clubs who is the authority on your chosen car. Don’t assume that the modern glass-and-leather dealership of that brand is the best place to go to, as many employ much younger people who don’t have the necessary experience, or knowledge, of how the older generation of car should be looked after, or what quirks and characteristics may be present.

Once you have found a relevant specialist, make an appointment to go along and see how they work and chat to them over a coffee about how best to look after your car. Many will be proud to show you their own workshops, and will actively encourage you to take an interest in the engineering of the car so you can see for yourself the time and care that they will lavish on it for you. This, in my opinion, makes the exceptional stand out from the merely adequate and more than justifies the expense. You will also see where your money goes when it comes time to pay their invoice.

Maintaining a Classic Car - Older Parts

Rule #2: Preventative Care is Best

Let us not forget that some of these cars are now decades old, and they are mechanical items. Things wear out over time irrespective of use, so never assume that just because you don’t use the car much through the year that it won’t require various parts replaced when it comes to its regular maintenance. The one item in my experience people always overlook is tires. Remember that they may just be pieces of rubber, but in terms of safety, they are paramount. A car that only covers a few hundred miles a year will have to sit on those pieces of rubber which will crack and deform over time with the weight of the car. Look into either removing them over the period that the car is not in use (winter months for instance) or at the least, investing in tire “cushions” that go underneath them to help them spread the weight.

Rule #3: Protect the Outer Skin

My next rule is to protect the outer skin of the car, and not just the paintwork. Talk to your specialist about the underneath and what can be done to prevent corrosion taking hold in the areas that you can’t see. Many still believe in “Waxoyling” the underside, a coating that is applied to protect those areas from the elements, but there are many products available that can do a similar job.

Maintaining a Classic Car - Preventative Care

When it comes to the paintwork, it really depends on the state of the car itself. If you have had a lovely respray and the car gleams, then a good detail with a sealant wax will maintain the lustre, but then ensure that the car isn’t left out in the elements. A soft, cotton cover over the bodywork when it is inside your garage is always a good idea, and ensure that the area is dry and well ventilated to prevent moisture building up. Sometimes, when space is at a premium, you may want to look at a specialist storage facility who will look after your pride and joy through the time you won’t be using it. Normally they will perform the necessary functions of storing the car correctly, whilst ensuring batteries are kept charged and fluids are fresh.

Rule #4: Keep the Fluids Pumping

Don’t forget that a car can be like the human body. Left sitting too long, it becomes stiff and less eager to run properly. There is nothing better for it than a good blast down your favourite road to get the oil pumping around the engine and gearbox. Just ensure that you remember to let everything warm up correctly before doing so. Remember, these cars are not like modern machinery that may have ECUs or sensors to compensate for a driver’s over-exuberance.

So, let’s recap:

  1. Do some research and find yourself a good, trusting specialist. Visit them and discuss your car and how you intend to use it. They will advise you a good plan of maintenance.
  2. Prevention is always better (and usually cheaper) than cure. Look at what preventative maintenance may be necessary to keep the car in top form, even if you aren’t using it.
  3. Store the car properly, and be aware of wear and tear, paying particular attention to brakes, tires and other safety-related items.
  4. Don’t be afraid to drive it, but treat it with respect and take the time to get everything up to temperature and running smoothly.

Classic cars that have been looked after and well-maintained will always find new homes and this will ensure that the love you have bestowed upon it will make it a better proposition to finding it its next custodian.

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About the Author:

Bryan McMorran is a car industry specialist and is Abbeyfield Sports & Classic’s Founder & Director.